Breast cancer can occur in men as well as women, but it is more profound in females. Initially a single cell of the breast becomes cancerous. As a group of cells become cancerous, it becomes a malignant tumor and starts invading the tissues and the surrounding areas of the body. When cancerous cells start to spread, it is called metastasize. So, by what is breast cancer, the general outline will be what has been mentioned above.
What is breast cancer in a more specific way?
In order to understand what it really is, it is important to have basic knowledge about the structure of the breast. A female breast has glands responsible for producing milk. These are called lobules. Besides lobules, there are stroma, ducts, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.
The tissues surrounding the lobules and ducts, which are responsible for carrying the milk to the nipple from the lobules, are called stroma.
When cancer begins, it starts from one of the cells in the line of the ducts or the cells lining the lobules. It is very rare that cancer starts from any other tissues.
The cancer cells start to grow and divide uncontrollably and become vastly unregulated in their function.
How breast cancer spreads
Once you know ‘what is breast cancer?’ you probably would be asking how it spreads. The lymphatic system which is present in most parts of the body is present in the breasts as well. This particular organ is responsible for the spread of the cancer.
Originally, the function of the lymphatic system is to fight with the diseases and infections. It has tiny bean shaped nodes where the immune cells are present. These nodes are connected by lymphatic vessels and carry tissue fluid as well as waste products away. When cells in the breast start becoming cancerous, it enters the node and start growing. Once inside the lymph nodes, these cells can also get into blood and metastasize.
Malignant tumors or group of cancerous cells start appearing as lumps. However, it is not always that lumps in the breast should be malignant tumors. One should follow it with proper medical checkup.
The lumps in the breast can be benign. Lumps can also occur because of fibrocystic changes. Fibrosis is nothing but fibrous tissue and cysts, which are filled with fluid. These also lead to pain and breast swelling. Normally, it happens when the menstrual period is about to initiate. In fact most women would notice heaviness and discharges from the nipples that are slightly cloudy in appearance.
In case the tumor is benign, the chances are that the cells would not grow uncontrollably and spread to other areas of the body. However, chances of developing malignant tumors are higher in such subjects.
Types of breast cancer
There are more than a few types of breast cancer. Some are rare. The frequent conditions are what we know as the answer to what is breast cancer. A combination of different types of breast cancer can also occur including:
- DCIS or Ductal Carcinoma in Situ
- Lobular Carcinoma in Situ
- Carcinoma in Duct (Invasive)
- Carcinoma in Lobules (Invasive)
Less common types of breast cancer
- Breast cancer which is inflammatory
- Breast Cancer known as triple-negative
- Paget ailment of nipple
- Phyllodes tumor
Besides the above types and what we know as ‘what is breast cancer’, different subtypes of invasive and noninvasive breast cancer types are also present.